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Spitzer doing the right thing

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is acting in the public interest by suing drug maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for fraud under a state law prohibiting the "deception, misrepresentation, concealment or suppression" of data.

The suit alleges that GSK conducted at least five clinical trials evaluating the effectiveness of the antidepressant Paxil for treating depression in children, but chose to publish only the results of the one trial that demonstrated that Paxil was more effective than placebo. Meanwhile, GSK was actively marketing Paxil as safe and effective for treating depression in children. Although GSK submitted all of its data to the FDA, an internal memo reveals that the company's goal was to "effectively manage the dissemination of these data in order to minimize any potential negative commercial impact," and recommended publishing only the favorable results.

Pharmaceutical firms like GSK have consistently demonstrated a penchant for conducting their research efforts primarily for the sake of commercial, and not scientific, ends. At the same time, the pharmaceutical manufacturers attempt to justify the exorbitant prices for their products by claiming that high prices are necessary to conduct research into new medication therapies. Since the federal government has so far been willing to buy this argument, the public is at least entitled to expect--in exchange for continued high drug prices--that the pharmaceutical companies will adhere to the highest standards of scientific inquiry when conducting clinical trials. GSK seems to have fallen short of that standard.